Norwegian Dawn: Cruise ship allowed to dock in Mauritius after cholera outbreak scare

The Norwegian Dawn pictured in New York (Getty Images)
The Norwegian Dawn pictured in New York (Getty Images)

A cruise ship was given the green light to dock in Mauritius on Monday after officials found there was no evidence of a cholera outbreak onboard.

The Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings ship tried to dock in the capital of Port Louis on Saturday but was blocked from doing so because at least 15 people had been in isolation over suspected illness.

Passengers had experienced mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness during the ship’s earlier trip to South Africa - in a region currently struggling with a deadly cholera outbreak.

But Mauritian authorities took samples on Sunday and, on Monday afternoon, the director of Mauritius Ministry of Health confirmed the passengers have gastroenteritis, not cholera.

Dr Bhooshun Ori said they have “fully recovered”. The Norwegian Dawn was supposed to dock on Sunday but arrived one day early because it skipped its scheduled stop at Reunion Island.

At the time, the Mauritian authorities said they had taken the decision “to avoid any health risks”.

"The health and safety of passengers as well as that of the country as a whole are of the utmost,” the statement added.

They also said that they had worked with the ship’s management to make sure precautions were in place and all on board were okay while they were waiting for the test results to come back.

What is gastroenteritis?

Source: NHS Inform

Gastroenteritis is a very common condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting. It’s usually caused by a bacterial or viral tummy bug.

It affects people of all ages, but is particularly common in young children.

Cases in adults are usually caused by norovirus (the “winter vomiting bug”) or bacterial food poisoning.

Gastroenteritis can be very unpleasant, but it usually clears up by itself within a week. You can normally look after yourself or your child at home until you’re feeling better.

The ship is carrying 2,184 passengers and 1,026 crew members.

Of these, around 2,000 passengers would have disembarked in Port Louis after completing their cruise while another 2,279 new passengers had been expected to board the ship, the port authority said.

"Passengers who were due to board the Norwegian Dawn and begin their cruise from Mauritius today will not be able to do so due to potential health risks," it added.

Those who were disembarking or joining the cruise will now do so on February 27.

Southern Africa is currently seeing the deadliest outbreak of cholera the region has seen in at least a decade.

As of January 15, more than 200,000 cases, including over 3,000 deaths, have been reported, World Health Organization figures say.

Countries affected include Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Zambia has been hit especially badly, with more than 11,000 cases and hundreds of deaths.

Only 61 per cent of southern Africa’s population currently has access to safe drinking water, according to the Southern Africa Development Community.

Except in South Africa and Eswatini, more than half the population in this region's rural communities do not have access to sanitation facilities such as toilets.

Norwegian Cruise Line's original statement:

A spokesperson said: “During Norwegian Dawn’s Feb. 13, 2024 South Africa voyage, a small number of guests experienced mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness.  Upon the ship’s return to Port Louis, Mauritius, the vessel’s management team met with local authorities to confirm precautions and actions were being taken to ensure the wellbeing of all on board. Due to additional testing being required by local authorities before being allowed entry, the government of Mauritius has delayed disembarkation for the current cruise and embarkation for the next cruise by two days to Feb. 27, 2024.

“Furthermore, we have deployed additional team members to support the guests scheduled to embark on Norwegian Dawn’s Feb. 25, 2024 voyage from Port Louis, Mauritius, as well as providing them with complimentary hotel accommodations until they are able to board. In addition, we are assisting guests currently aboard the ship with their modified travel arrangements.

“The health and safety of our guests, crew and the destinations we visit is our top priority. We operate at the highest public health and sanitation standards, and encourage our guests to practice good hygiene and to report any illness-related symptoms to the onboard medical team immediately.

“Additionally, we have elevated our sanitation procedures aboard the ship as part of our routine measures to ensure a safe environment for all on board and will continue to take any necessary measures to protect our guests, crew and destinations we visit.”